• Don't Knock Twice

    Released by: Shout! Factory/Scream
    Release date: June 6, 2017
    Directed by: Caradog W. James
    Cast: Katee Sackhoff, Lucy Boynton, Richard Mylan, Nick Moran, Pascale Wilson, Javier Botet, Pooneh Hajimohammadi, Sarah Buckland, Jordan Bolger, Ania Marson, Callum Griffiths
    Year: 2017
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    After refusing to spend the night with her estranged mother Jess (Katee Sackhoff) and her mother’s husband Ben (Richard Mylan), Chloe (Lucy Boynton) instead opts to spend the time with Danny (Jordan Bolger). The two visit an old home said to be inhabited by a witch. They knock on the door twice and run off, after which Danny begins to experience weird occurrences. Chloe gets scared and agrees to stay with her mom, but there she experiences seemingly paranormal activities herself, including dreams in which she’s visited by an old woman who claims to be a witch. Finally, Chloe tells her mother about the evil witch who lived in the house she and Danny visited; it’s said that anyone who knocks twice on her door will meet a ghostly comeuppance. “Knock once to wake her from her bed, twice to raise her from the dead.” Jess insists that Chloe’s dreams are nothing more than dreams, though an encounter with a model suggests that something unusual is up. Chloe tells her that Baba Yaga, an old Russian witch, is after her, but Jess refuses to take her seriously until her own workshop is destroyed and a sinister message left on the floor. Not long after, both Jess and Chloe are terrorized by the witch, who apprehends Chloe and tries to drag her into the nether realms. Jess’s model, Tira (Pooneh Hajimohammadi), however, insists that the old woman isn’t a witch at all but rather a suicide, one angry with Chloe for demeaning her reputation.

    Horror film critics have been fairly kind to Don’t Knock Twice, though this particular reviewer isn’t certain why. Mainstream critics, on the other hand, recognize it for the tired retread it is. Performances are good; Katee Sackhoff is particularly strong as Jess, playing a much different character from her role on the DC Comics series The Flash. It’s a naturalistic performance, one that hints at what the film could have been in the hands of a stronger screenwriter. Lucy Boynton is likewise good as Chloe, making one wish the focus had been on the estranged mother-daughter dynamic. Unfortunately, that dynamic takes a backseat to the usual supernatural hijinks, all of which you’ve seen innumerable times before… just this year alone. Even worse, it falls back on that stereotypical staple of the horror film: an ethnic minority who is attuned to the spirit realm.

    Caradog W. James’s direction doesn’t help, choosing as it does to focus on jump scares filtered through drained and unrealistic color schemes. He inadvertently creates a world that’s hardly recognizable in anything other than horror films, one that dispels any realistic frisson established by the relationship between the mother and daughter. But neither is it uniquely stylish. Best known for his critically lauded The Machine (2013), James isn’t without talent; it’s just unfortunate that he brought so little originality to this horror outing. Add to this some middling special effects, and you’ve got yourself yet another ghost/possession-type film that can be safely ignored.

    For a better example of modern and original horror from across the pond, check out Liam Gavin’s incredibly resonant A Dark Song (2016) instead. You’ll appreciate that you did.


    Shout! Factory brings Don’t Knock Twice to Blu-ray with an MPEG-4 AVC encode in 1080p high definition. The aspect ratio is a wide 2.40:1. The image is certainly crisp and detailed most of the time, though the director has opted for a very dark look. How well you’ll be able to see those details will depend, however: Lighting is generally low-key, sometimes almost nonexistent, giving the film a very shadowy appearance. The director also opts to downplay the color, obviously using a filtering system to result in mostly cold blues and grays. The occasional greens and reds look far from realistic, and actors’ faces appear pale and bloodless. All of this is intentional, of course, James’s way of setting the mood. If it doesn’t quite work, one can blame its overuse in modern cinema. (For a better example, see Hammer’s The Woman in Black, 2012, which is also a ghost film.) Regardless, there’s no crush. The film was clearly shot on digital video, though a very thin layer of fine grain has been added to give it a more film-like look. There appears to be some minor image manipulation in a few spots, but nothing that compromises the overall look of the film. There are only a few minor extras, and the film runs a mere 93 minutes, so Shout’s use of a BD25 is not problematic.

    Shout has given viewers two tracks from which to choose while watching the film: The first is an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, while the second is an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track. Those with a soundbar will be fine opting for the latter, but if you have a full surround system, it would be wise to go with the 5.1 track, as it includes some nice touches absent from the 2.0 track. The music score sounds good on both but is a little more dynamic in 5.1. The dialogue is clear, and, overall, the sound levels are kept in check. For those who are deaf or hearing impaired, there are English subtitles. Shout has also included Spanish subtitles for the Hispanic market.

    When the disc is placed in the player, trailers for other IFC Midnight titles immediately begin to play. These include Evolutionn (2015), The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016), and Beyond the Gates (2016). Viewers can skip them to get to the menu screen, or let them play out, after which the disc moves to the menu screen. The trailer for Don’t Knock Twice is also included; it runs 1:44.

    The only extra of note is "Behind Closed Doors: Inside Don’t Knock Twice," a making-of featurette that runs 13:30. It includes interview snippets with actors Katee Sackhoff, Lucy Boynton, Nick Moran, Jordan Bolger, and Javier Botet, as well as director Caradog W. James, screenwriters Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler, special visual effects supervisor Christian Lett, and producers John Giwa-Amu and Claire Moorsom. Unfortunately, there are no subtitles, though for those who are not hearing impaired, most of the participants are easy to understand.

    Finally, a DVD containing the film as well as the same extras is also included.

    The Final Word:

    Don’t Knock Twice is another dull entry in the tired ‘ghostly visitation’ subgenre. Shout’s release certainly looks good, despite the intentional lack of color, so there are no complaints there. Extras are limited, but if one is a fan of the film, there’s little to grumble about.

    Christopher Workman is a freelance writer, film critic, and co-author (with Troy Howarth) of the Tome of Terror horror film review series. Horror Films of the Silent Era and Horror Films of the 1930s are currently available, with Horror Films of the 1940s due out in 2018.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!


    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Maureen Champ's Avatar
      Maureen Champ -
      I thought DKT is another American phony of horror, cause they lost an interest to suggest some fresh ideas for genre. British horrors nowadays are strange, unique and stylish like A Dark Song, A Field in England, Kill List and Devil's Business. But this picture disappointed me.